Agenda item

APPLICATION NO: 16/0116/TWREG3 SITE: Woodmancote Primary School, Station Road, Woodmancote, Cheltenham, GL54 2EP

 

Applicant: Property Strategy Lead, Gloucestershire County Council, Shire Hall, Gloucester GL1 2TG.

 

Site: Woodmancote Primary School, Station Road, Woodmancote, Cheltenham, GL54 2EP

 

Proposal: The variation of condition 3 (revision of the elevation drawing from the previously submitted drawing 5092-P-600 with drawing number 5092-W-701G) relating to planning consent 15/0069/TWREG3 dated 04/09/2015 for the development of a new block for additional classrooms and toilet facilities. An extension to the existing staff room and offices to provide larger space for current staff numbers.

 

Minutes:

The application was presented by Sarah Pearse, Principal Planning Officer, aided by a power point presentation.  (A copy of the presentation is attached to the signed Minute book).

 

A Planning Application by Property Strategy Lead, Gloucestershire County Council for the variation of condition 3 (revision of the elevation drawing from the previously submitted drawing 5092-P-600 with drawing number 5092-W-701G) relating to planning consent 15/0069/TWREG3 for the development of a new block for additional classrooms and toilet facilities. An extension to the existing staff room and offices to provide larger space for current staff numbers at Woodmancote Primary School, Station Road, Woodmancote, Cheltenham, GL54 2EP

 

The application site was located within the Parish of Woodmancote. It was approximately 1km east of the centre of Bishop’s Cleeve and approximately 6km from the centre of Cheltenham. The access to the school is via Station Road, which links Bishop’s Cleeve and Woodmancote. The closest residential properties were located in Woodmancote Vale.

 

Members were informed that the existing school was built in the early 1970s and extended in the 1980s, 1990s, and in 2016. The main school building and extensions were modern, buff brick built, single-storey buildings with a mixture of pitched and flat roofs and it was relatively sympathetic to the surrounding residential properties, which were predominantly two-storey residential properties.

 

The application site was not within a Conservation Area, the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) or an archaeologically or ecologically sensitive area.

 

It was noted that application number 15/0069 /TWREG3 was granted permission on 30th October 2015 for the wider development of the school. The classroom block building which was the subject of this variation of condition application was located on the western side of the school adjacent to Woodmancote Vale, was constructed with red brick and had a shallow mono-pitched roof sloping towards the south.

 

Mrs Pearse explained that this application was for a variation of condition 3 which defined the scope of the development and listed the supporting documents and approved plans. It arose from the fact that the building was not built in accordance with the approved plans in terms of height. The Applicant had acknowledged that there was a discrepancy and explained how it came about in section 2 of the committee report. It was the impact of the difference in height that was under consideration and the impact that change had on the adjoining properties. The closest residential property was 44 Woodmancote Vale.

 

There was a distance of approximately 20 metres as illustrated on the submitted cross sections between the wall of the house and the wall of the new classroom block, with an intervening close boarded fence and hedge.

 

The variation of condition 3 which referred to the approved plans had been submitted to regularise the difference in height between the building that was approved on drawing 5092-P-600 by planning permission number 15/0069/TWREG3 and that which was actually built.

 

It was noted that the height of the building measured using a scale rule from the approved plan was 3.3 metres, although that plan was not annotated in terms of height. The building measured 3.4 metres on the replacement plan, but was annotated as 3.6 metres. The difference in height illustrated on the plans would appear to be approximately 30cm. The line thickness of the drawings and printing anomalies could also affect the measurements and whether you measure from the top of the engineering brick or the surrounding tarmac.   The applicant was proposing to substitute the approved drawing with drawing number 5902-W-701 Revision H, which had the correct as built dimensions.

 

Mrs Pearse explained having taken into consideration the Consultation responses and representations received and the impact on the properties in Woodmancote Vale, it was considered that the impact of the building as built was not significantly different to the original proposal. Whilst there was no entitlement to a view, the views across the school grounds towards Cleeve Hill would have been restricted by the presence of the existing school building and the new building even at the lower height. It was not considered that the loss of outlook outweighs the wider benefits to the school and the local community.

 

The County Planning Authority was of the opinion that the increase in height of the building would not adversely affect the amenity of neighbouring users beyond what was originally approved, when balanced against the requirements of paragraph 72 of the NPPF in “ensuring that a sufficient choice of school places is available to meet the needs of existing and new communities”.

 

The Chairman invited the following to address the Committee:

 

Mr Noel Morgan (Objecting):

“Thank you for the opportunity of hearing what I have to say today.  My name is Noel Morgan and I reside at 44 Woodmancote Vale, it was at our house that you visited last week.

 

I am sure you will by now have all read the comments / objections and so forth related to this application. I feel it is important to stress that we never originally objected to the original build – we knew the school had to expand indeed our children went there so we know better than most the need for expansion.

 

When we saw the plans, however long ago that was, which were presented at the school we spoke to the architects as we were acutely concerned about the height and the proximity of the building to our residence. We were assured at that time that the height would remain from a visual perspective, from our side, below or at worst level with the original eye line view of the school roof. So any views over and above the original school building roof would still be maintained. That though is clearly not the case.

 

The view from our rear garden that you had last week is not really representative of the stark brick wall we look at in winter. The hedgerow hasn't been cut back in over two/three years now. One of the questions, again right at the outset, concerned maintenance of the hedge and we were assured it would be maintained. This hasn't happened and allowing it to grow several feet is clearly not the answer. Indeed, I understand from our neighbours that they asked the school when it would be cut and were told in response that they had been advised not to cut the hedge - WHY would that be?...

 

To date I don't think we have had one single set of measurements that concur with those of any other. How can we trust in or believe anything anyone has told us when simple measurements on scale drawing plans just don't add up. To clarify - we were told the height elevation was 3.30m but it was built to 3.60m by Mr Steve Harris. We were told it was 3.55m but built to 3.80m by Mr Brian Storer.

 

ln one of Quattro's documents it was advised the difference in height was just 16cm... SORRY but these people are architects and surveyors and such like, not members of the public such as myself but at no time have they once been able to provide a consistent result. If they can't do measurements properly it does make me wonder what else may be wrong that we don't know about.

 

Quattro provided additional "evidence" indicating the eye line of our house and its "non effect" - they have never been to our residence, have never seen the impact and ultimately want this matter to go away and be approved. Their comments were flawed - our house sits above the school building eye line not level to it, and any pictures taken were not commensurate with the hedgerow being maintained so saying that the build is masked by the hedge is once again false.

 

Ultimately whose fault is this and so who should take the blame and the consequences of it?

 

The council planning office - well I feel they are partly at fault for, in my opinion, initially trying to mask / hide the issue. It was after all mostly due to our protestations that this matter became escalated to where we all are now.

 

Who else - well ultimately the main guilty party are the Architects"-Quattro Design. They made a complete hash of the drawings and elevations and showed a serious lack of professional competency on something they should know what to do based on their regular exposure to the processes.

 

Who isn't at fault - well it certainly isn't the local residents. There have been errors made from start to finish in this process but what we fear is that if you allow this height adjustment to stand and go through unchecked we as residents are left with the cost to bear in terms of value of and saleability of our property.

 

I am sure one of the main concerns that you as council members have is one of cost verses benefit, I do understand that but at the same time consider this, we would of protested and objected vehemently to the original building if we knew then what we know now. We would not of been alone, the whole neighbourhood are at a loss to understand why the building is so high and why that colour of brick was used.

 

And finally bear in mind who is at fault in this process and then consider who would actually have to pay. 

 

If you, as I reach the same conclusion and consider it to be the fault of the architects, then it is the architect's responsibility. And assuming your planning office did due diligence on them they would know that they maintain Professional Indemnity Insurance for circumstances such as this where they were negligent in their ability to carry out their professional duties. Therefore, it would be their insurance company who ultimately would responsible for the costs of remedial works.  Thank you for your time”. 

 

Agent: Robert Walder: Quattro Design Architects:

“Quattro Design were appointed by Gloucestershire County Council to design

new classroom accommodation for the provision of additional primary school

places in light of the new Homelands Farm development in Bishops Cleeve.

 

Across the course of the work undertaken, we met with a number of groups

and individuals to ensure that the project was a not only a viable solution for

the site, but met the needs of the user group, their design aspirations and

organisational strategy for the school. More specifically this included the

school governors, school staff, general public and local authorities.

 

Some of the more distinctive features that came out of these consultations

were the brickwork and parapet roof detail.

 

The brickwork was selected to create a uniquely distinguishable classroom

block within the existing setting, whilst giving it a clear identification that pupils

could connect with and aspire to be in. A project principle that the school head

was clear upon from the outset.

 

Following completion of the project we received feedback from the School

Head saying that "The new block has proved to be an absolute hit with

children and parents alike. It’s distinct, large open classrooms and central

break out space have given the Year 6 children the feeling that they are

valued and certainly ready for the next step in their learning journey."

 

In light of this positive feedback, it was certainly regrettable to learn that the

as constructed building was marginally higher than the planning approved

drawing had indicated.

 

Upon learning this, we have worked diligently with the authority to regularize

the issue through formal channels.

 

Upon review of the difference between the planning approved and as

constructed building, we support the view of the planning officer in that the

difference is minimal. More specifically the officer’s views that:

-    The impact of the building is not significantly different to the original

approved proposal.

-    The amenity in terms of light and sunshine have not been

compromised.

-    The loss of outlook does not outweigh the wider benefits to the school

     and the wider community.

 

These comments and the reasoning behind them are laid out in the planning

officers report”.

 

The Chairman invited further questions from Members following the presentations. 

 

Councillor Wheeler asked officers to clarify that the only thing which was required of the Committee was to consider the height of the building.  Mrs Pearse clarified that was correct. 

 

The Committee entered into debate.

 

Councillor Wheeler was baffled by the mistakes made by the professional architects, he felt that they should get it right the first time and therefore had sympathy for the neighbours.  He added that the scheme was not grand enough to warrant refusal, however consideration should be given to the maintenance of the hedge but noted that this wasn’t a planning matter. 

 

It was noted that Councillor Preest left the Committee meeting at 12:30pm. 

 

Councillor Rippington thought that the roof had been redesigned to prevent balls from staying on the roof, however, at the time of the site visit he observed there were 10 or more balls on the roof. 

 

Councillor Fisher noted that on the site visit a measuring pole was used and the building was approximately 3 bricks above the height of the pole.  Councillor Cordwell observed there were 5 bricks above the pole. 

 

The Chairman proposed to accept the Officer’s recommendation.  On being put to the vote, the motion was passed.  (11 in favour, 1 abstention)

 

The Planning Committee therefore:

 

Resolved

 

That Planning Permission be granted for the reasons summarised in paragraphs 7.21-7.23 of the report and subject to the conditions set out in section 8 of the report. 

Supporting documents: